Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hope in His Power

God, the lover of my soul, gives me hope. Scarcely a half hour goes by before any despair I experience is replaced with Hope. Sometimes, it's in the form of tangible evidence he gives me about the future.

Last week, my son Peter had to respond to a writing warm-up from Apologia's Jump In Writing Curriculum. His prompt was God has given me...

He writes thus...

God has given me the gift of teaching. When I teach I feel God speaking through me. I can find so much to teach about in the Bible. It is the book of life that I live by, and the best book ever written. It has a lot of great advice in it.

This simple paragraph gives me hope because it speaks of my son's passion, of his confidence in the Lord and in Scripture, and in God's provision for his life's work. It helps me believe that despite any disabilities, God will use my son for His glory. Indeed, he already is.

2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

Friday, August 28, 2015

The One Thing You'll Never Regret

Romans 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Do you worry about the future and what it holds for your children?

As a mother I have legitimate reason to worry about my children, but I try not to. When the waves of despair threaten me, I do a stubborn about-face and go in search of joy, instead.

God is too powerful, too gracious, too faithful, for me to fret. I know it's a sin, besides.

But the signs are all there. Signs of series mental illness in more than one of my children. One, who previously wasn't a source of much worry, is displaying early bipolar signs.

It's hard not to feel terror when I assess the situation and see the tell-tale signs.

That's one side of my life circumstances.

The other is this: my children delight me with their love, their sibling relationships, their unique intelligences, their sweetness, their evangelistic efforts with more and more neighbor children.

I see their gifts, their huge hearts, their worship of the Savior, and I'm overjoyed.

Life is like a teeter-totter. On the one hand is immense joy, and on the other hand, intense sorrow.

When I'm at my best spiritually I know the Lord's holding it all in balance; there isn't a single detail he's going to forget about, or fail to cover for in his ultimate plan.

I don't have a crystal ball to see the adult outcome for my affected children, whether it's missionary work, a lucrative self-employment, a professorship, or even a subsidized apartment on disability. Success or failure, I can't predict. The statistics don't help me, because the mentally ill can get by fine, or they can falter, crash and burn.

I have no control at all. We're stubborn and sorely mistaken when we insist we yet wield some control over the future.

So much happens to the adolescent brain and my little girls may not escape something mental themselves. Mental illness can get worse or first appear around that time, and usually persists for a lifetime, at great cost to loved ones and to the sufferers.

I've learned to do the only thing I can do--I spend an inordinate amount of time pointing my children to Jesus, the Healer.

Maybe you don't have these concerns with your own children. Maybe everything about their futures looks promising.

Still, you don't have any control either. I highly recommend spending an inordinate amount of time pointing them to the Savior. 

It's the one thing you'll never regret.

Or the one thing you'll wish you'd done.

If it's the former in your case, your child's life will reflect His glory. His glory with eclipse any pain, suffering, or sadness. And let me tell you...these aren't just some soothing words on a screen. They're my reality.

He. is. faithful. Hallelujah.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Josh Duggar's Demise, Part 2

The latest Josh Duggar scandal--a Christian catastrophe--is shattering enough to write about not once, but a few times, as we glean what we can from it and move forward as a Church body.

In this post I want to flesh out Satan's role a bit more in Josh's demise, and then in another post I want to respond to the woman who asserted that Anna Duggar's parents failed to empower her, and that as mothers we should be teaching our daughters to "breathe fire".

If Anna decided to divorce her husband the Church would not stand in her way due to the adultery, though if she entered what's called a covenant marriage, (legal in three states) she would have to go to counseling for a couple years with Josh before deciding to leave him. I know nothing about the nature of their union, but I feel confident she's not actually stuck. If he proved to be unrepentant over time, she would undoubtedly do what her prayers tell her is best for her children.

For the record, I'm personally trying hard to mercy Josh Duggar, who my heart wants to despise. As a Christ follower I know hating him is not an option for me, anymore than it is for his wife, parents, siblings, in-laws, or church family.

Josh is not off the hook by our mercy, however. Church discipline is waiting for him, I imagine, which I pray will completely humble him before his Savior and fellow Christians. His hardest fight yet, which he may have already begun in May--after canceling his Ashley Madison accounts in the wake of the molestation scandal--is to fully repent and allow God to heal him from his sexual addictions.

What's sure to prove true is that Satan will not let go of Josh easily.

Addiction is the ugliest of human problems, stealing the soul and leaving massive destruction in its wake. It starts with one poisonous thought put in us by the enemy: I deserve this.

~ I deserve more clothes, more furniture, a nicer home or car...
~ I deserve the most exciting and thrilling intimate experience imaginable...
~ I deserve my computer gaming time..
~ I deserve a "high" have a little fun and feel uninhibited...
~ I deserve all the comforts the world has to offer...
~ I deserve social media because all the other people are doing it... (a popular teen mantra)

What do humans really deserve? Hell.


Though I need to qualify this with a heavy side note: This sentiment of what we deserve need not be an excuse to enable someone in their addiction, or to allow people to abuse us. We aren't supposed to participate in the sins of others (including as victims) and both addiction and abuse are sins. As such, distancing and protecting ourselves from these people is sometimes absolutely necessary and healthy and moral. Additionally, we should do everything we can to secure the release of moral prisoners, such as those caught in human trafficking. As people created in the image of God we do deserve dignity, and so we should do everything we can to fight spiritual and physical poverty.

We are the created and our destiny is in the Creator's hands. The gift of free will can sometimes make it seem like we have control, but choice is not the same thing as control. The Creator holds ultimate, overriding power in our lives and in the universe.

Those using Ashley Madison accounts thought they had control, but God's proven otherwise.

As Believers, we enjoy the knowledge that he works all things for our good. What this really means is that He molds our hearts so that our will eventually intersects with his. What it doesn't mean is that things will always be easy. It's our ultimate good he's after, not always our immediate good.

What does God our Creator offer us, and what did he offer Adam and Eve?

He offers everything our souls truly crave: Eternity and beautiful, soul-deep fellowship with Him, both in Heaven and while we wait for him here. A few encounters with Him are not enough; we need continual fellowship to benefit from the soul food he offers, and it's only when we break fellowship with Him and hide or deny our sins instead of confess them, that Satan gains a stronghold.

One of the best defenses against Satan besides prayer and bathing in the Word? It's to hold captive for Christ the thought that we deserve a particular thing. Another important and related defense is gratitude. The grateful person does not seek pleasure as a false god.

The Ashley Madison hacking was orchestrated by God, I believe, to give the Church and the nations a wake-up call. Let's pray it works. Not only are there suspected suicides from it, but divorce attorneys, therapists, and even pastors will have plenty of work in the coming few years, as God cleans house.

Before the Ashley Madison scandal leaves the news cycle, we need to ask ourselves...what does he need to clean up in my heart? 

Name it, gouge it, and pray it out of your life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How to Avoid a Josh Duggar Heart

Like my fellow believers, I've been sickened by the news of Josh Duggar's cheating ways, as well as by the commenters claiming that Christians are like everyone else, or even sicker. "If there was a God, they assert, he would change hearts. What evidence is there that Christians have better hearts? None."

Oh, my. This is certainly a compelling argument against religion, with pastors and parishioners falling left and right. We're even sicker, people assume, because we hide our sins deeper down, hoping to stay in the good graces of our fellow Bible-thumpers...or something like that.

My first thoughts were: How does a true Christian participate in ongoing sin--having these awful Ashley Madison accounts, for example, for two years? How do you eat at the family table, take care of your children, go about your family life, while living a lie? How are you not utterly miserable while doing this? How do you not worry about your wife's sexual health, which you are putting into jeopardy with your insane selfish acts--as well as the health of any unborn babies? How do you not worry about your children, who will be ashamed of their last name and their Daddy? How do you live with yourself everyday? How do you not break down and confess early on?

I still don't know the answer, and of course it's not my place to judge another's salvation. My purpose today is in offering wisdom as to how the rest of us can avoid ongoing sin.

I can witness to you about what happens within me when I pray before my family, confessing my sins. My friends, it is humbling, cleansing. It's as though you're using a toothbrush to get at the deepest grime between the tiles. Don't get too busy to pray humbly before your family, who love you and can help heal you.

It's possible to participate in corporate or private prayer without the confessing part, but this is not God's design. It's so easy to avoid examining our own hearts--especially when we're busy analyzing others' heart--but our heart's purity demands this examining step, daily.

If you said something unkind to your husband, for example, it will come up as you examine your heart during prayer time. The Holy Spirit will make sure it comes up. And your heart, as you confess and ask for forgiveness, will be softened against your husband, helping you avoid another unkind remark or heart stance.

If we don't keep up with a daily cleansing of the heart, we begin to feel like we have a right to our sinful feelings, attitudes, or behaviors. Our hearts harden and life becomes about us, not about loving God and our fellow man.

The Holy Spirit keeps us pure, but it's our job to turn to Him, boldly looking him squarely in the eyes, asking: search my heart and cleanse me.

I will go through The Lord's Prayer below, explaining how we are to model our prayers, but first, let us read about David's contrite heart after sinning against God.

I've always thought this a beautiful prayer, and I see it as God making beauty from ashes out of David's sin--in producing a heart model for us to follow after we have sinned. This Psalm is David's prayer after committing adultery with Bathsheba.

Psalm 51: A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Savior,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17My sacrifice, O God, isb a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
18May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Commonly known as the Lord's Prayer, but better termed The Disciple's Prayer, this is the model Jesus gave for how to pray. 

Matthew 6:9-13

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

It starts, Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. When we go before our heavenly Father in prayer, we should begin with praising His holy name.

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Next, we should pray that the Lord will come back soon, and that more people will come to Christ beforehand, including our family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances. God puts people in our path to pray for and influence, and we should remember them all at this time. The Lord desires that none shall perish.

Next, we should pray that we, and others, will live according to God's will, not our own--that God will work this into our hearts. 

Give us today our daily bread. We have nothing and deserve nothing outside of God's grace and will, and everything on the earth is the Lord's. We humbly acknowledge that we are utterly dependent on God; we ask him to provide everything we need to live on a daily basis: physical nourishment, shelter, clothing, spiritual strength, grace. We also pray for other's daily needs and petitions here.

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. We pause a moment in prayer and let the Holy Spirit reveal our sins to us, so that we can name them and ask for forgiveness. We then ask that our hearts will be softened toward those who have offended us, so we can thoroughly forgive them.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. These two clauses belong together, and according to John Calvin's commentary, their meaning is thus:

“We are conscious Of our own weakness, and desire to enjoy the protection of God, that we may remain impregnable against all the assaults of Satan.” We showed from the former petition, that no man can be reckoned a Christian, who does not acknowledge himself to be a sinner; and in the same manner, we conclude from this petition, that we have no strength for living a holy life, except so far as we obtain it from God. Whoever implores the assistance of God to overcome temptations, acknowledges that, unless God deliver him, he will be constantly falling.

The Lord will make beauty from ashes out of Josh Duggar's sins, just like he did with King David's, though we may never see it. Josh's fall is a reminder to us all that, outside of prayer with confession, we will go likewise.

Daily life is so very busy, especially with young children around, but prayer need not take a long time, as we see from this model. There will be seasons of life when it can be luxuriously long, when children are gone and the house is still and quiet, perhaps. But in the meantime, we open ourselves up to sin and pain and shame, if we ever claim we are too busy to pray. Even five minutes with a spouse is significant and holy.

How does your family do prayer?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Homeschool Day in the Life (and Elsie Dinsmore)

I am waiting to see how a natural, workable rhythm develops before I write a daily schedule. A few weeks into school, this is how our days are rolling.

My husband gets home at 7 PM, making us night people (though we are naturally, anyway). The kids go to bed at 9:00 (girls) and 10:00 (boys). I go to bed between 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM, and my husband retires between 10:30 and 11:30.

7:30 - 8:00 - My two girls (ages 6 and 8) and I wake up, while the boys sleep until 8:30 or 9:30 (boys are 11 and 13). The boys don't always fall asleep as soon as we put them to bed, and since studies show teens need morning sleep, I don't try to alter their wake-up time.

I start slowly in the mornings due to chronic headaches, but within an hour I begin making oatmeal and start the laundry. The girls have about 90 minutes of free time, during which they will draw, or play dress-up and pretend they are orphans, or school marms, or enter into some other make-believe world.

When alone, Mary is all about nature (frogs, toads, praying mantises, grasshoppers, crayfish, snakes), but with Beth she is all about pretending, and engaging in very physical play. My girls' energy levels are more what you'd expect from a couple of boys. They are hyper, touchy-feely, and exuberant (read: exhausting but full of love and charm).

9:30 - We start seatwork, comprised of journal writing and grammar for the boys, and narration, copywork, journal writing, and math fact practice for the girls.

Boys Writing: The boys either have a question to respond to about a Sonlight novel, or they do a 10-minute writing plunge from the teacher's manual of Jump IN: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers. Once a week, they choose one of their ten-minute writing plunges to rewrite for a grade. Otherwise, the plunges stay in rough-draft form. Plunges help writers develop their writing voice.

The Sonlight literature-response questions often take two days to respond to, with the second day including a rewrite (I give the questions, not the Sonlight curriculum).

Girls' Writing: I read a literary selection from Writing With Ease 1 and ask the girls questions about it, and then have them narrate it back to me. I then have them formulate one or two sentences about the passage, and they watch and help while I write it. I have them read it carefully back to me, and then those sentences become their copy work.

Two to three days a week, they free write in their journals.

After I get the girls to the copywork point, I start making our bread for lunch using our breadmaker on the dough cycle. It kneads it twice and after the first major rise, I roll out the bubbles with a rolling pin and shape the dough, placing it in a bread pan to rise in our oven for 45 minutes, followed by baking for 30 minutes.

10:30 - Next, I take my shower, during which my girls watch Wild Kratt's on the Kindle (no TV signal here) or access a Reading Rainbow book on the Kindle. The Kindle is best at this time because my girls are too rambunctious to be left unsupervised without a structured, quiet activity in place. It is very stressful to be showering and listening to rambunctiousness, wondering who is going to end up with stitches at the ER.

During my shower, my boys continue school with novel reading or science reading. They're in the same grade so they have to share all materials, alternating the use of their books.

11:30 - After my shower the girls do more math with me, and then all the children have outdoor time, while I work on dishes and laundry.

1:00 to 1:30 - Next, the bread is sliced and we have lunch, followed by devotions.

1:30 - 2:00 Devotions starts around this time and goes for about an hour. The children draw during the readings, but not during prayer. First, I read aloud from the Bible, followed by my reading an Elsie Dinsmore novel, which read more like devotionals.

Following the reading, we all take turns praying, with me including in my prayers a request to guide our characters according to what we read from the Bible passage and/or the Elsie Dinsmore.

I bought the first three Elsie books for a couple dollars each, which we read on the Kindle Paperwhite, but the rest of them we are accessing from Project Gutenberg for free on the Kindle Fire (see bottom of this link for all the Gutenberg links).

That's it for now. The second half of our day will be detailed next week.

Literary notes about Elsie Dinsmore (because it's controversial) and other sentimental, 19th century literature

Written between 1867 and 1905, the Elsie Dinsmore novels are didactic in nature, written with the purpose of influencing the spiritual growth of women and children (though appropriate and interesting to boys, too). After the first 12 novels of the series, the books read more like travelogues, with weaker or non-existent plots. Originally, I thought we'd read the whole series, but after researching it, we probably won't get beyond the first 6 or 7 as a family.

After the turn of the century, Americans, less evangelical as a whole, enjoyed pluckier heroines like Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables - 1908) and Jo March (Little Women - 1868). Though there's very little Bible in Little Women (Alcott wasn't a Christian, but a transcendentalist), it's still a coming-of-age character-shaping book, which many adult readers claim is too moralistic.

We've come a long way in the wrong direction, haven't we, in girls' and women's literature? No longer is the character or moral development of the reader any concern at all, which is why evangelicals are primarily responsible for the rebirth of Elsie Dinsmore. After outselling all but Little Women, (Elsie Dinsmore selling 5 million copies during its 70-year market reign) the Elsie series went out of print for 30 years, starting in 1943.

Including British readers, Elsie enjoyed 25 million readers--a figure encompassing more than just the first novel.

Martha Finley, the author, was an unmarried minister's daughter who wrote Sunday School literature. She suffered chronic back problems which left her often bedridden and dependent on her brother financially. Unsatisfied with her plight, she prayed that the Lord would provide her with some means of an income. Shortly thereafter, Elsie Dinsmore was born, and so adored that the public kept demanding more and more sequels, even dictating the name and subject matter of Elsie's Widowhood.

While Elsie was beloved by the reading public, critics didn't review it positively, and still don't for the most part, partly because of a lack of understanding of the genre itself, and the audience for which Elsie was intended. Nineteenth-century women's and girls' writings included stylistic flaws (like overuse of adverbs and telling with passive verbs, rather than showing, and with dialogue of the he said-she said variety) at which literary critics turn up their noses. The writings reflected the conservative Protestant era and conscience, in which character and religious training were of utmost importance.

I should add here that Miss Finley's writing does include exceptional vocabulary words (most still used today in learned circles). It's sure to expand the expressive and receptive vocabularies of your whole family. Also, note that her sentence structures are varied and complex. This is not twaddle by an means. It is good literature, just not quite expert.  Little Women, which most regard as good literature, was written with the same stylistic characteristics, and indeed both authors wrote far and away better than JK Rowling (Harry Potter), for example.

Other examples of these didactic, sentimental (also called domestic) fiction writings include Susan Warner's Wide, Wide World (1850), Harriet Beecher Stow's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), and Maria Susanna Cummins' The Lamplighter (1854). The era most known for these writings was 1850 until after 1870.

Elsie Dinsmore is controversial (either loved or hated) for various reasons, all of which I'll address:

~ The relationship between Elsie and her father, Horace, is described by modern-day critics to be too erotic (too much kissing and caressing). I've even seen this accusation on evangelical, homeschooling sites (homeschoolers and evangelicals are the largest reading public right now for Elsie Dinsmore). This accusation is entirely related to the outdated language, which we cannot, in our era, understand, due to our overly-sexualized culture. A caress or a passionate kiss did not constitute sexual language in that era. Also, I think we're just plain less affectionate nowadays, which isn't a good thing for children and young people.

~ Elsie cries a lot and the overall emotion of the novel is entirely overwrought, which sickens some readers. Emotion doesn't bother me, folks. I'm sappy, sappy, sappy and my kids are sappy too. My husband stands out as the only non-sappy one here. I can only say in Elsie's (or the author Martha Finley's) defense that this was, after all, termed sentimental fiction for a reason. It's supposed to tug on your heartstrings and make you weep for your beloved little heroine.

~ Elsie's character is too perfect and unrealistic. Some people hate her for her goodness and her spouting of Scripture constantly. Kids can't relate to her, critics say. Well, again, this is didactic literature, meant to influence women and girls' consciences. It is supposed to be like Pilgrim's Progress--suitable for futhering one's Christian growth and development. And Elsie is very humble, always saying she's a wicked sinner saved by grace. She loves the Lord exceedingly, partly because she had no family to speak of for the first 8 years of her life, and then some. Her relationship with the Lord is how she handles everything that comes her way. It is safe to say that her personal relationship with Jesus is what the Lord would have us all enjoy. The Lord is her strength and her song.

Also, Elsie is not supposed to be a real person, but a vehicle by which girls and women can be spurred on in their faith. My four children love and admire Elsie, and are never worried that they can't measure up to her, partly because Elsie does have a flaw (stubbornness), making her seeming angelic personality more of an illustration that we can never be good enough for God--and thus, the Cross. She is a very good little girl, and very obedient, except when her unbelieving father asks her to do something that violates her strict Sabbath observation. The problem is, she chooses something minor to make a stand on, which makes her case less compelling than it could be.

As you'll see if you read it, both Elsie and her father suffer from the same major flaw.

~ Elsie Dinsmore is racist literature. There is an Elsie Dinsmore Life of Faith modern rewrite that takes out some of the racist parts, but leaves out historical information. The original Elsie Dinsmore includes speech and attitudes which reflect a romanticized view of plantation living. Elsie is very rich and owns slaves, but she treats them well, buying them Christmas gifts and attending to them when they are sick, procuring doctors for them when needed, reading the Bible to them, and genuinely loving them. Later, she builds a school to educate them (after slavery was abolished), and her own slaves stay with her to work for wages--wages better than any other plantation owner pays. Elsie's slaves adore her and never want to leave.

Now, Martha Finley lived in the North, so it's fair to say she didn't have first-hand knowledge of plantation life. She treats the Civil War itself fairly, not siding with one or the other, but she presents a benevolent view of slavery--almost as though Elsie was doing her slaves a favor in owning them.

This novel is a reflection not of a slave's desire to be owned, but of the mixed views and emotions about which Christians thought of slavery. The idea that if you treat your slaves well, then it is okay to own another person, is of course ludicrous. It is offensive, but we have to regard period literature as a reflection of its time.

Someday, in regard to abortion, our society may be regarded as barbaric, depending on how views change over decades and centuries--and on how God intervenes. I would hope, like with slavery, that history makes the more righteous about-face. It took a very long time for views on slavery to change, and I fear it may be the same for abortion.

~ Elsie's father is cruel and abusive, and Elsie never stands up for herself (too passive). True, Elsie's father in the first two books can be cruel and jealous. These first two books are intense, until he becomes a Christian at the end of the second. Martha Finley initially wrote one long book, which the publishers broke up into two novels, explaining why Elsie Dinsmore ends abruptly, and the second book Elsie's Holidays at Roselands, picks up as if it's the next paragraph.

One more characteristic of sentimental women's fiction is that the female lead is redeemed through her submission to her father (usually) and to God. Her growth and maturity are earned through her eventual, successful management of her will. It's not a saved-by-works philosophy, but a saved-by-submission philosophy, with the Lord working the miracle in the heart of the heroine, and sustaining her through the process. Elsie is saved even at the beginning of the novel, but it is her submission to and deep and abiding love for God, throughout the novel, that eventually wins her father over.

She sacrifices herself to submit to God, becoming ill, and the symbolism (whether Martha Finley intended it, I don't know) at the end of the ordeal, is of her dying and coming back to consciousness, giving her father time to reflect on his cruel behavior and heart, and then submitting his own life to the Lord. It reminds one of Christ's sacrificial death that ultimately redeems us.

Contrast this with the plucky-girls literature popular after the turn of the century, in which girls matured and gained in poise and character through the passage of time, rather than through faith in the Lord, or through submission, or through any adherence to Scripture.

I love Elsie Dinsmore because she fills a void in modern society--at least in modern Christian society. As a character who deeply loves the Lord and wants to please him above all else, she is one of a kind. My children love her dearly, too.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Your results may vary.

And thanks for reading today!

Weekly Wrap-Up

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Be a 24-Hour Christian

James 4:13-16 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.

So many times when things have been tough in my life, I've wondered deep inside: "How will I get through this?"

I'm stronger now in middle age than ever before, but I'm still often drained by the effects of the sin curse and everyday problems.

"How will I get through another school year with Peter's OCD? How will he?

"How will I get through another year of perimenopause, with the hot flushes in earnest now and the headaches worse than ever?"

"How will I make the tithe next week?

How will we afford private colleges costing $45,000 a year?

What if the major drugs Beth is taking for her arthritis lead to cancer or infertility?

How will I get through that speech, that test, that appointment?

How will I keep up with the homeschooling and the house? 

You often hear people say that God spoke to them. God told me to do this or that. It's hard not to feel skeptical about such statements, but once in a while, I really do feel God speak to me directly.

Today was one of those times, during church in fact.

Peter often cries quietly in church (and during devotions) because anything spiritual triggers his OCD. I can't tell you how hard and hurtful it is to see these tears, knowing how much my son loves the Lord. His type of OCD is called scrupulosity and it's centered around thoughts of sin and Satan--fears and thoughts that he loves Satan rather than God, or that he is going to turn to a life of sin. The thoughts and fears are so powerful that even though they don't make sense and aren't consistent with who he is, he has a hard time dismissing them.

Mind you, these are all very typical OCD thoughts. For hundreds of years other OCD sufferers have had the exact same thoughts and for a time, before OCD was better understood, this particular manifestation of it was termed religious melancholy.

I've counseled Peter many times that it isn't the thoughts that make him ill. It's his reaction to them.

The same can be said of all of us. It isn't our hardships that make life so challenging. It's our reaction to them.

Peter and I tiptoed out of service, so I could calm him down before his youth class started, scheduled right after service. When I counsel him, I don't reassure him about the specific thoughts, because that makes the condition worse. Families, unknowingly, make OCD worse by participating in their children's rituals, which only perpetuates the harmful cycle.

Instead, I reminded him that: Yes, this disorder is cruel and excruciatingly hard, but he needed to remember that we are on this earth just a nano second, and then Paradise begins and never ends. We don't know why God allows babies to be born who can't speak, hear, walk, roll over, or eat. We don't know why he allows children to be in drug-addicted homes, or children the world over to be abused and left for dead.

It is endless, the appalling things God doesn't stop on this earth. We can't comprehend how God can be loving, and yet so willing to allow excruciating pain. We blame him for not making the world a kinder, gentler place.

Eve, in the Garden of Eden, blamed God, essentially, for creating the serpent who deceived her. And Adam? Didn't he blame the woman God gave to him--so in essence he blamed God, too?

But God is not responsible for the sin curse. Our free will is. He decided to punish us, but we decided to sin. Indeed, we wouldn't have done any better in the Garden of Eden than Eve or Adam did. They truly represent us, in all our childish, sinful ways.

God is only asking you, Peter, to endure this OCD for a nano second, compared to the plans he has for you in Paradise. That's how he can allow such pain in your life, or in anyone's life. He knows the magnitude of your joy in Heaven, compared to your trials here on earth.

Your OCD, I told him, will not always be this bad. Through God's grace, you will learn to accept the thoughts and not fight them or panic over them. Your nervous system will cease it's fight or flight reaction every time an awful but senseless thought occurs in your brain, and the cycle will be broken. You will feel free again, though there's no cure on earth. Eventually, the thoughts, in times of stress, may still appear, but will become faint background noise you can ignore.

The same is true for us. The longer we live, the less we will despair over our trials. The longer we live, the greater the grace we'll be willing to extend to others. The longer we live, the more we'll be willing to say: To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Peter, listening to me intently, told me he realizes more every day that he was created to do mission work. His heart leaps for joy over the prospect of mission work, and he fears his OCD will mess that up.

24 hours, I told him. Just live the next 24 hours, and let God handle tomorrow.

God clearly told me today: Life is a 24-hour endeavor. He also said his manna is given on a daily basis for a reason. The future doesn't belong to us, but to Him. It is His. We are His. Tomorrow is not ours to plan or worry about.

For the next 24 hours, just love me, He asks. That's all you have to do. Surrender unto me your agenda, your hopes and dreams, your troubles and worries, and even your pain. I will give you everything you need to live the next 24 hours, freeing you up to just love me and delight in me, as I delight in you.

Every 24 hours is an opportunity for another heart to say yes to the Cross. That's the Lord's agenda every day, every hour. That's why he tarries. That's why the sin curse and suffering haven't ended yet, and Paradise hasn't begun yet for the Christian.

God assures us we have food for today, strength for today, joy for today, grace for today.

And about the future? What does God tell us about the future, specifically? Reading all these verses below, we can begin to comprehend the heart of God regarding the future.

When tomorrow is no longer thought of as yours, but His, today becomes all the sweeter for it.

Psalm 40:5 Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Luke 12:32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

John 15:1-5 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. ...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Do Not Worry About Money...Ever

For over ten years, the financial health of our family has been precarious. Precarious means: not securely held or in position; dangerously likely to fall or collapse.

Yes, that pretty much nails it.

I left full-time teaching when my first child was born, and worked part-time from home for the first three-and-a-half years of his life. I stunk at balancing home and work life, being nearly always behind schedule. All-nighters became the typical means I employed to catch up on paperwork before the homeschooling facilitating meetings I conducted for a public charter school in California, one week a month. I also taught a couple enrichment classes, but mostly, I worked from home.

Pregnant with my third child and two still in diapers, a nervous breakdown seemed likely. My husband, a Pennsylvania native, loved California but I told him I couldn't live that way anymore and could we please move to a cheaper state so I could stay home? No matter the numbers, I said. God says he will provide for those who seek first His Kingdom.

I studied the Bible and knew it was not my responsibility to support my family financially. As bad as that sounds in this modern era, it is true. Mothers can work, but they aren't required by God to do so if a husband is present and able-bodied. They are required to be good stewards of family resources, such as the Proverbs 31 woman was, but a breadwinner? No.

Before quitting work entirely my income twice benefited our family: in the purchase of our first home in California in 2001, and then in our cross-country move, our home here in Ohio in 2005. Not to mention that my teacher retirement, available in about six years, will cover our house payment for the following 14 years, until it's paid off. (Okay, that's assuming God won't let California go bankrupt before that--California being the holder of my teacher's retirement account).

So, I've done something to support our family financially, just not recently.

My husband? Terrified about describes his reaction to my request. The prospect of being relatively poor for the rest of our lives sent him into a depression he's never fully come out of--but he didn't say no to my request to be home full-time. He believed me when I confessed I was headed for a nervous breakdown.

I loved and still love mothering--believing it is who the Lord created me to be on earth--and I wanted to do it well for the glory of God. Leaving my two baby boys with a sitter several hours a week tore my heart in two. With a third child on the way, I knew what was needed.

A full-time mothering ministry. 

Day in and day out, I wanted my mothering work to express my gratitude for the little blessings God so graciously gifted to me. I wanted my roles in life to come from the Bible, not from the world. I believed and still do believe that the Lord will provide for my at-home mothering position--if I keep my eyes and heart on what is most important.

And despite my husband's fear, I knew the Lord would bless him with a solid legacy if he, too, lived out his biblical role for our family--knowing that the Bible doesn't command a man to support his family in style. A man just needs to feed, clothe, and shelter his family, through his obedience and through the Lord's provision.

I knew not to look for financial blessing from all this. Financially is only one way God blesses. If we do what he assigns us in the Bible to do, we are not promised a comfortable life in return. There are spiritual blessings from following God's word and they aren't necessarily externally manifested. Our struggling for ten years financially is not a curse, though it may look like it from the outside.

At times, this lifestyle is excruciatingly hard for all six of us. We're the "poorest" family in any church we attend (except for some of the single-parent homes), but it's a hidden thing mostly because our thrift store clothes look pretty good, and our van isn't too bad on the outside either.

We know being a part of America's working poor is far different than abject, or third-world poverty, so "poor" isn't a good description, but poverty is always a relative thing. If you're the only family who never goes to lunch after church and can't even afford a camping trip--much less a vacation or a movie out--than it translates to an impoverished feel...

...if you don't hold your thoughts captive for Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The minute we entertain coveting thoughts--or want more of the world's riches than we enjoy--our thoughts become sin. The result is disastrous if we don't heed the Holy Spirit's prickle and repent.

I'd like to say it gets easier, but it doesn't. I have greater faith than ever before though. As that faith continues to grow, my testimony deepens with each bill the Lord provides for. I know what it's like to wait for manna from the sky, rejoicing that it came just in time, but that doesn't mean I enjoy having to wait.

Sadly, I miscarried our third child shortly before our California-to-Ohio move--but after we'd sold our house and couldn't look back. I often think about the miracle of that timing. If we hadn't sold the house already, my husband may have withdrawn his consent to living poorly.

We moved in August, 2005. We got rid of all our bills and student loans by selling our modest 3-bedroom California home, and buying an inexpensive 3-bedroom Ohio home. We live on a cash basis and almost always buy used or do without. My home decor has seen no changes in ten years, unless you count little thrift-store trinkets that find their way to a shelf.

My husband is a low-wage earner, having earned a Bible college degree that never translated to financial success. He knows the Bible backwards and forwards though, which comes in handy often.

The financial numbers that should have concretely given us permission to do this, have never worked out to this day. We didn't have earthly "permission" for me to stay at home. It's entirely a daily act of faith. A daily testing of Matthew 6.
Matthew 6:19-21, 26-34 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also....No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[?28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

We remain as sinful as the next person, and just this week I needed a popular Apologia Christian science textbook for the girls' science curriculum that I couldn't afford, and couldn't find used. I evaluated it and decided it was a need not a want, but at first I just downloaded the first sample chapter for free from the publisher, which wasn't going to last long.

Finally, impatient, I bought it new, but at a discount over the publisher price. Though I felt the purchase was consistent with seeking after God's Kingdom first, I preceded to worry about the money I spent.

But you know? Not ten minutes after I hit purchase, a homeschooling mother from finally responded to my inquiry. Yes, she still had the used textbook for $20 postage paid, and did I still need it? 

My heart went all a flutter.

I had just spent $34 on it after shipping, but thankfully, the purchase being less than fifteen minutes old, the company refunded me, no questions asked, and lo and behold, I now have a nice used textbook coming in the mail from a very nice homeschooling lady. 

Little did she know how God used her to bring me back into the fold of believing.

I immediately felt ashamed of myself that after ten years, I doubted God would provide...even though he has always provided for needs, unfailingly. He loves the last-minute scenario, never telling me of his plans, but asking me to trust him implicitly. He commands not worry about money. Ever.

Please my friend, whatever your situation: Do Not Worry About Money, even if you've messed up with money. Study the Word and decide what "seeking after his Kingdom" will look like in your life. You are responsible for that, not for your daily needs.

Isn't it freeing to know that? His yoke really is easy and his burden, light.

Matthew 1:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Suffering and Surrender

My special-needs son put a huge hole in his wall today because OCD made him frustrated and angry and he just didn't know what to do with his angst.

Though he possesses expert knowledge about how to handle OCD thoughts--he could teach a class on it, in fact--he isn't ready to heed his own advice. The thoughts are too strong and controlling and scary and it just seem easier to do the rituals (not that holes in the wall are a ritual--that was anger at his plight in life).

The rituals, if continued, get worse and they steal away every moment, until there's no life left. Just pain.

It's like the self-aware drug addicts who know quitting will involve a long, painful withdrawal process, so they put it off. It just seems impossible to muster up the courage.

Only those with OCD can understand, and the rest of us just scratch our heads.

You mean you drove around the block ten times, looking for someone you ran over, even though you know you really didn't run anyone over? Yes, they try to explain. They have to be sure.

You mean you were an hour late to your next class because you washed your hands over and over in the student bathroom, in tears the whole time, knowing they weren't really dirty? Yes, they try to explain. They have to be sure.

You mean you can't go near children because you are afraid you are a pedophile, even though the whole idea is repulsive and evil to you, and you know you would never act in such a way? Or you won't go near the same sex because you are afraid you are gay, even though you are not attracted to the same sex, and you know deep down you are not gay? Yes...but I don't feel sure.

Yes, OCD sufferers do all these things and more (though my son doesn't have any of these obsessions, yet, and perhaps won't ever. But they are among the most common). OCD people are of average or above-average intelligence, and very sensitive, kind, gentle people. The things they find most repulsive or disturbing become their obsessions. It's a horrid, cruel brain disorder.

None of it makes one iota of sense and they know it, but they can't stop avoiding, or ritualizing, or going over and over things in their heads (ruminating is done instead of rituals, for some sufferers--called Pure-O OCD, meaning pure obsession, but no compulsions).

OCD is a disease of uncertainty. They can't handle any uncertainty and the battle to be sure of something becomes their downfall.

They have to learn to say..."Well, maybe I did run someone over. So what?"

"Maybe I really do love what?"

"Maybe one of Satan's angels really is coming at what?"

"Maybe I really will stab my husband with a what?"

"Maybe I really am gay, what?"

"Maybe I really am going to die (or throw up) (or a family member is going to die) from germs on my what?"

"Maybe I really did leave the burner on and the house is going to blow what?"

They have to neutralize the thoughts so they can stop reacting to them, but even thinking of these neutralizing sentences fills them with horror and shame. They can't bring themselves to do it, so they get worse and keep reacting with flight or fight mode. Medication sometimes, for some of them, makes the thoughts less powerful, so they can begin to think about their therapy techniques.

In adolescence, when fear is very hard to fight for hormonal reasons, therapy is difficult at best.

Sufferers have to accept that there is a buzzing bee (bad thoughts) in the room with them. Accept is good, to fight or run or panic is bad. 

"The bad thought doesn't have anything to do with who I am. It's just a brain glitch."

While this statement sounds easy to us, it's terribly difficult for them to believe...even though they know it's true.

There is no cure for OCD and even when the vicious cycle gets broken, and they are leading normal lives again, there will always be, in times of stress, buzzing bees in the room that they have to continue to ignore to stay well. The minute they give in and do a ritual, they're possibly in trouble again.

Experts did a study and found that all people have similar thoughts occasionally, but our normal brains know right away to file the thoughts away as nonsense. We don't react to nonsense thoughts.

But the OCD sufferers? The thought-filter in their brain doesn't work. The thoughts come in with a DANGER ALERT sign. Their body reacts in flight or fight mode, with high adrenaline and fear, which are so powerful their brain compels them to do a crazy ritual, that for some reason temporarily decreases the anxiety. But the more rituals they do, the less the rituals work to decrease anxiety, and then a full-blown life-crisis exists. They can't fulfill their responsibilities on time or with ease because their rituals eat up the day and drive them insane.

Right now there is nothing I can do except pray and continue to counsel, until God see fit to heal my son or give him the courage he needs to absorb the discomfort of not doing a ritual, long enough to stop the chain reaction--obsession, anxiety, ritual, relief. Obsession, anxiety, ritual, relief.

Absorbing discomfort and pain is hard.

When I get a migraine, I take something for it because if I don't, I eventually have to lie very still in a dark room with no noise or interaction, and at some point I usually vomit, too.

What the OCD sufferer has to do to get better is stop taking the "medicine", so to speak (stop doing the ritual that temporarily relieves the anxiety). They have to, in essence, allow the throbbing headache and nausea to come, unhindered. They have to suffer to get better...and who wants to suffer? It's human nature to run kicking and screaming away from suffering.

God allows life to break us and that is so hard to fathom, isn't it? If you're broken, you know you're ready for heaven. Your mindset has ceased to be on earthly things and you just want to go Home.

Peter, husband, and I? We just want to see Jesus. The rest of the family isn't broken...yet. They have big plans.

And plans are good, but we can't ever assume we accomplish anything through our own intelligence or our own strength. The minute we gloat, God takes us down a peg or two. He allows suffering to refine us. To humble us. He works for our good, even when life seems like a big disaster.

I have to go to an AWANA meeting this Wednesday to become a Cubbies (preschool) leader. Oh, I tried to get out of it at first, but I prayed about it and then told the director that if she didn't get another Cubbies leader during the summer, than I would do it. I will be among three Cubbies leaders in a large class, taking turns with the various duties.

Do you know what I hoped? That God would realize my son's disorders are too taxing on me and my family, and that someone else could surely do it instead.

But God didn't agree. It's me who loves preschoolers, and me who loves teaching God's word.

If God wants me to work for Him with vigor and cheerfulness, why does he allow such sorrow in my life? I feel too weak and sorrowful today to even make that meeting, much less show up and do a good job at Cubbies on September 2nd.

Do you wonder these things, too? Do you want to crawl under a barrel and let everyone else--the ones with normal lives--do all the work for God?

Let me tell you a secret.

Surrender it all to God. Hopes, dreams, plans, ego, pride...the right to stay home and wallow.

And just show up.

Every single day, no matter how hard your trials are, just show up.

Show up to hug your boy--even though he's made you a wreck--to say you're so terribly sorry he's suffering, and that you'll be praying for him all day, and that Jesus loves him, and that he is fearfully and wonderfully made by a glorious God who knows every hair on his head.

Realize that it's the sin curse you're battling, not your son or daughter. 

If the problem is with your marriage, realize it's the sin curse you're battling, not your spouse.

God doesn't ask us to carry our own burdens. We attempt to carry them all the time, but it's sin--it's not obedience to his will.

If we show up, he is faithful to teach the Cubbies through us.

If we show up, he is faithful to give us the gentleness and patience we need to work with a sick or troubled child.

If we show up, he is faithful to give us a listening, quiet spirit to win our husband's love.

He will walk us through our hardest parenting days...our hardest marriage days...our hardest personal suffering days.

We don't have any answers--but he has them all. We don't have any insight--but he has it all planned out. We don't have any stamina or strength--but he's omnipotent and omniscient. 

Omnipotence means God is all-powerful. He has supreme power and no limitations. Omniscience means God is all-knowing. He knows everything--past, present, and future. There is nothing about which he's unaware.

So take that huge load off your back...whatever it is. Let your Heavenly Father soothe you and quiet you by his love. You don't have to understand. You just have to get filled up (prayer, Bible, worship), and show up, ready to be used for his glory

The more broken we are, the more desperately and humbly we go for our filling. The more filled we are, the more eagerly we show up to let him shine...knowing full well that on our own, we are nothing.

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

2015-16 Homeschool Curriculum Part 2

Last week I posted my boys' eighth-grade curriculum. In this post I'm featuring the girls' curriculum. Mary is entering the 3rd grade, and Beth is entering the 1st grade.

Read Alouds: I'm reading from the Elsie Dinsmore books. This collection is over 100 years old so you can download them for free. See the link above. We also have other devotionals to read this year. I will also be reading aloud the Beautiful Feet history selections, as pictured below.

Reading - All About Reading Levels 3 and 4 Mary will finish Level 3 and also do Level 4. Beth will finish Level 1 and also do Level 2.

Supplemental Reading - Mary will also read her Beginning Reader Bible each day, as well as library selections. We also have some Christian stories in a 2nd Grade BJU reading textbook that she will enjoy. Mary loves Christian stories and often tells me afterwards how happy and peaceful they make her feel.

Spelling - All About Spelling Level 2 Mary will finish Level 1 and complete Level 2. Beth will not do spelling until she is nearly done with All About Reading Level 2.

Math - Saxon Math 2 for both girls. Mary will hopefully transition into Teaching Textbooks Grade 3 by February or March. She has dyscalculia and is behind grade level in Math, while Beth is somewhat ahead in math.

History - Beautiful Feet Early American History Primary Pack Both girls will be taught together, with mom reading aloud from the selections below. Notebooking pages, discussion questions, and character development elements are included in this package as well.

Writing - Daily Journal Writing--a minimum of 3 sentences every morning. Other writing will include the dictation exercises in All About Spelling. As she becomes more proficient this year, I will ask her to respond to literature in her journal. The Beautiful Feet History Pack will include some notebooking work in a composition book, also.

ScienceApologia Exploring Creation with Zoology, Land Animals of the Sixth Day 

Fine ArtsMeet the Great Composers Book 1 & 2 We will do this as a family.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Curriculum for 2015-16: Eighth Grade

2015-16 Curriculum 

Peter, age 13, and Paul, age 11
Both entering 8th Grade

We started back to a regular, full-time school schedule; here are the basic curriculum choices for the boys:

Literature and History: Sonlight Core H - World History Part 2

We bought this core in February, 2015, and are continuing with it this year. The boys will read both the readers and read-alouds to extend the curriculum. Late June through July they took a break from Sonlight to read other literature, but they're back at it now.

Read Alouds: I'm reading aloud from the complete Elsie Dinsmore series (28 books) and from other devotionals. There's a great deal of Scripture and character training contained in the Elsie Dinsmore books. We're thoroughly enjoying them, with the kids hanging on every word. This series also qualifies as historical fiction, containing historical facts and opinions from the mid- to late-1800's, including the politics of the Civil War, and the beginnings of the Ku Klux Klan following the war.

While I'm currently finishing up book 1 with the family, I just finished book 5 on my own. We're all spurred on in our faith by Elsie's delightful, pious, Christ-like character. My little girls are so inspired that they're reading their Bibles faithfully, with help from Momma, and even trying to memorize passages like Elsie does. Elsie is very careful about her devotional times, letting nothing in the way of her time with the Lord.

Geography - NorthStar Geography  (starting second semester)

Grammar - Easy Grammar

Writing - Responding to the Sonlight novels via essay questions Mom assigns. We will also use Apologia's Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers.

Spelling: All About Spelling

Math: Teaching Textbooks Pre-Algebra and Khan Academy. Paul loves math and is quite the expert at it, so I may get him a used Saxon text to amuse himself with, as well. He will also continue with computer programming on Khan Academy.

Science: Apologia General Science & Apologia Physical Science My boys received an excellent overview of science from Sonlight Science, used during all their elementary years. We will use the Apologia General Science course to fill in any holes in their knowledge, and to get used to a textbook format, and then go on to Physical Science, which is recommended for 8th grade (although it can also be done in 9th grade).

Don't ask me how we birthed a math expert, since husband and I both have our limitations in this area. Outside of her dyslexic difficulties with backward numerals, Beth grasps math concepts well also.

Paul is all we need around here as math instructor, which takes a load off this Momma's mind. So far I can still help Peter as needed, who is finishing up 7th grade Teaching Textbooks this summer. When I'm not available, Paul is always willing. I had a year of calculus in college but of course I don't remember a thing, so going forward, I either relearn with Peter or allow Paul to be tutor. Thankfully, he enjoys teaching.

Some Thoughts On Teaching Learning-Disabled, Or Learning-Difference Students

All four of my children have dyslexia to varying degrees, with Paul's case being very mild, and the girls having the most difficulty with reading. Peter and Mary both have dyscalculia also, and Peter has dysgraphia--all explained below.

Thankfully, the Teaching Textbook curriculum format allows Peter to be fairly independent, regardless. Hints are given as an option, and students can do the problems over once (though not on quizzes). If they're really stumped, they can have the answer explained for them, but Peter is diligent to try again before seeing answers. I have a hunch his OCD won't let him look at the solutions unless he's desperate. All this makes math time consuming and causes congestion at our only PC, but we hope to get that remedied next semester.

Today Peter told me math is comparatively easy when he isn't plagued by his OCD rituals during the lesson. That said, it still took him an hour and forty-five minutes to do 26 problems, due to the dyscalculia, which encompasses everything from difficulty with computation and fact recall, to difficulty writing out the problems neatly enough to follow one's own work. Careless mistakes are so commonplace that correct answers are rarely achieved the first time while doing the multi-step problems characteristic of 7th grade and higher math.

Long-term memory issues also play a part, in that these students have difficulty remembering random facts not associated with a narrative or a visual, such as math facts, days of the week, and months of the year. Dyscalculics may always have to recite a rhyme to decide what the fifth month of the year is, for example. It may not become automatic. While the presence of the learning disability makes automaticity difficult to achieve, the more years that pass, the more likely they'll know it as well as the rest of us, except during stressful moments.

Disabilities require patience most of all, and the belief that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a glorious God who does not make mistakes. If you're teaching learning-different students, remember to spend plenty of time on their strengths. Very successful dyslexics--and there are many--testify that their success did not arise because someone spent numerous hours and years remediating their weaknesses in reading, spelling, math and penmanship. Rather, they said it was honing in on their unique strengths that made the difference for their futures. They grasp things the rest of us miss, and in that context they are enabled, not disabled.

A good secretary will solve a lot of issues--or good technology, for that matter.

It's common for dyslexics to also have either one or both of: dyscalculia and dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is difficulty with organizing thoughts on paper, and difficulty with spelling and handwriting.

These conditions all make for a challenging homeschool life, in which God makes it abundantly clear that He is in control, not us.

I have my 2014-15 portfolio review this Friday, and following that I will get to the girls' curriculum post. Have a nice weekend, friends! I hope your back-to-school preparations are going smoothly.

Weekly Wrap-Up

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Dear Tooth Fairy

Dear Mr. Tooth Fairy,

I hereby appeal to you on the matter of the general award given for fallen teeth, which has been one dollar. I, currently having no money, would like to receive a little more money than usual. Oh, Daddy, I will give you a card that says:

I love you, Daddy, so much! You're the best Dad in the world for giving me more money than I usually receive. Thank you.

P.S. You are a good tooth fairy. Though I don't like boy tooth fairies, you are the best boy tooth fairy. Thank you.


Beth Your Art Girl

(with a little help from siblings and Momma)

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Fear Not

It's time for a Christian lesson on fear and anxiety, for my son Peter's OCD is so severe he can't get through his daily responsibilities, though as a testament to God's power, Peter still manages to be concerned with the neighbor children's salvation. God can work through any circumstances. Whatever infirmities and disorders we have, he can still use us. Hallelujah!

I urge you, if you are paralyzed by fear of any type, to list all your cares and them meditate on the verses below. When you are done with these verses, click here to see more.

My fears are:

~ that Peter has a treatment-resistant type of OCD;

~ that he won't be able to work;

~ that he won't be able to marry and have children, which is something he dearly hopes for;

~that he won't be able to finish high school on time, since it takes him 3 hours to do a whole math lesson due to the concentration involved, complicated by nearly non-stop rituals. I break up the lessons as much as I can;

~ that even if I could get him into a residential treatment program, he isn't ready to give it his all. Adolescence is a difficult time for battling fear and some patients are better able to tackle OCD in their twenties.

~that he won't be able to finish any exams and will flunk, even if he does get to college or vocational school;

~ that he will get so exasperated with the religious rituals, it will cause him to turn from the Lord's fellowship--for it already makes it difficult for him to pray and read the Bible. His grandfather, age 92 and similarly affected, does not pray or read his Bible anymore due to the stress of the rituals, and he isn't even aware of his disordered condition.

It's very difficult to homeschool students with disabilities, but I know the right direction and focus for me, as mom and teacher. It's a hard road requiring an unwavering faith, which requires an unwavering commitment to the Scriptures and to personal and corporate prayer.

When spirits need reviving, it's time to bathe in every Scripture we can find on fear and anxiety. I pray these will help you with whatever affliction you may suffer, for one thing is sure--we are all suffering in some respect:

Isaiah 41:10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Philippians 4:6-10 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Matthew 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ...

Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

1 Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Isaiah 35:4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Psalm 27:1 Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Romans 8:31-39 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? ...

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Psalm 55:22-23 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.